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An Artist and a Poet Capture Death in a Hospice Room
For T’s ongoing series, A Picture and A Poem, the Rome prize-winning artist Nari Ward responded to a poem by Carol Muske-Dukes, the former poet laureate of California.
LIVE, DIE: A GHAZAL
The door of the hospice room in which you die
stays open. Dreaming, you drift there, dying
in that floating bed of fierce arguments that live
on, until the moment when you no longer live.
Cheered on by a chorus of voices as you die,
“Go now! Go to the light!” Still, Don’t die!
Cries a dissenting voice within: a flickering live
Wire behind the nightlight’s angel face. Live
News at 7 AM, after the great orange moon dies.
Sunlight fingers a blue bowl of shaved ice. Die?
No. Not now. A tiny version of you pops out alive
From a burning wood, swims upstream, panting. Live
as Nurse Good’s softshoe entrance to applause, dying.
She smiles, squints at her syringe, held up, lit, like dye
bubbles lengthening in a radiant corridor: see lives
unborn (half-souls blindly pushing toward life)
gather outside time, inside your mind. Move! Die!
they cry. You won’t acquiesce. Mother, I cannot die
For you, I don’t know how. You brought me here alive.
You taught me everything but how to let you die.
Artwork: Nari Ward, Off the hook, 2016. Carol Muske-Dukes’s poem “Live, Die: A Ghazal” (printed on cotton paper), glass bottle, sterilized cotton, rubbing alcohol, telephone handset and cord. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.